Antigua Rallies Non-aligned Countries in Online Gambling Battle with America

Posted on: September 21, 2016, 06:00h. 

Last updated on: September 21, 2016, 07:17h.

Antigua president Gaston Browne calls for help in US online gambling dispute
Gaston Browne, president of Antigua and Barbuda, continues to flex muscles in his Davis and Goliath trade battle with the United States. (Image:

Gaston Browne, president of the tiny twin-island Caribbean nation Antigua and Barbuda, wants to take on the might of the US, and he wants the Developing World to join him.

Speaking at a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement of Nations, he called on South American and Central American countries in particular, to support his David vs. Goliath battle against the US.

Antigua was an early adopter of online gambling, creating a framework for regulation as far back as 1994, when the industry was in its supreme infancy. Low taxes and millions of dollars of investment in tech infrastructure soon began drawing operators.

By the year 2000, the islands had 93 online gambling licensees who were collectively turning in $7 billion in revenue.

But a crackdown on online gambling and sports betting by the US caused the number of licensees to plunge and decimated the industry on the islands.

By 2002 the number of operators had dropped to 38 and, by 2003 over 80 percent of those licensees had left the island.

Landmark WTO Ruling

Antigua took its grievances to the World Trade Organization (WTO), complaining that the US’ stance contravened the General Agreement on Trades and Services (GATS), an international treaty, drawn up by the WTO in 1995, which was designed to remove barriers to trade.

In March 2004, to the US’s embarrassment and Antigua’s surprise, the WTO ruled in favor of the islands, and it did so again in 2007, after the passage of UIGEA.

By refusing full market access to online gambling operators on the islands, the US, a paid-up member of the WTO, was in breach of its treaty obligations, it ruled.

In 2007, the WTO awarded Antigua $21 million in damages, annually. That debt now stands at $200 million, a debt the US has refused to pay. WTO also granted Antigua the power to collect its dues by offering it royalty-free digital downloads of US intellectual property for its citizens, such as music, films, TV shows and books.

$200 Million Tab

Antigua has resisted resorting to this measure because it sees it as a powerful bargaining tool, but it still wants America to pick up its tab.

“We have reached such a level of frustration at the recalcitrance of the US to make a fair offer for the injury that has been done to our economy over the last 13 years that my Government is contemplating activating the remedy give to us by the WTO to remedy the wrong that has been done to us. In other words, to sell US material without copyright until the US settles with us in compliance with the WTO judgement,” said Browne.

“This case, which is now famous in the annals of international trade law and about which scholarly books have been written, goes to the efficacy of the World Trade Organization and whether small and micro-states can get justice when powerful nations refuse to cooperate.”

The NAM must stand up for “those principles upon which it was founded” because “the threat we face is real; the danger is imminent,” he added.